Updated: Oct 22
Danilo Cavalcante’s prison break was an institutional failure that put the lives of officers and residents at risk. His escape was eerily similar to Igor Bolte’s in May. This is because no substantive corrective measures were taken by prison officials or the prison board headed up by our commissioners. Their lack of oversight and leadership was the cause of the September spectacle.
It is now reported on 6abc that county officials were specifically warned that Cavalcante was planning an escape. We do not know whether our commissioners were notified or not. If they were not, it is reasonable for Chester County residents to demand a full accounting of their failure to oversee our prison.
Howard Holland, Acting Warden of our prison, had barely entered on duty when Cavalcante escaped. Given the speed and energy with which he acted, we can only wish that he had been at the helm when the other prisoner escaped. Unfortunately, Commissioner Josh Maxwell was calling the shots. It was his responsibility, as the chairman of the prison board to conduct in full inquiry. It was also his responsibility to make sure that corrective actions were implemented. As best we can tell he did nothing at all.
Acting Warden Holland’s post escape policy changes were much needed. The additional security measures such as increasing monitoring for high-risk inmates are reasonable and likely to be effective. This raises the question “Why weren’t such measures already in place?” To the laymen, reasonable policies like these should have been the norm and the Republican Committee of Chester County (RCCC) sees these failures of oversight to be reflective of the administrations in power today.
District Attorney Deb Ryan sent Danilo Cavalcante to what was, in effect, a minimum-security prison. The correctional system overseen by Commissioner Maxwell was chronically understaffed and lacked long-term leadership. The commissioner knew this even before the May escape. Among the most important functions of elected officials is to communicate with one another in a frank and candid fashion. Perhaps, if Josh Maxwell had told Deb Ryan that his prison could not be relied upon, our children would not have remained indoors for weeks as a convicted killer wandered through our fields and forests.
District Attorney Ryan is not off the hook here either. It was her policy to hold convicted prisoners in a local lockup rather than transferring them to a secure facility. Her blanket policy did not take into account the nature and severity of the crimes. It is ultimately to blame for Cavalcante being in the only prison in Pennsylvania from which he could escape in this manner.
These systemic failures are emblematic of a failed leadership team in Chester County. Every day it seems we discover some new way that our elected officials have failed us. Prison escapes, $13 million dollars thrown away on faulty COVID-testing, unchecked urban sprawl, dysfunctional sheriff and district attorney offices, and leaderless critical county administrative services all point to poorly chosen elected officials. They display a pattern of hasty decision-making and a lack of transparency. This suggests that these officials have traded our health and welfare for their own political advantage.
Repeated examples of institutional failure demand action on the part of the Citizenry. Remove those responsible for such poor decision-making from office on November 7. Provide proven leadership by electing Roy Kofroth as our Sheriff and Ryan Hyde as our District Attorney, and replace the absolute void on our current Board of Commissioners by electing David Sommers and Eric Roe.
Image from Chester County DA Office